The Bulls softball team battled hard against the Florida Gators Wednesday night, but came up short of victory in front of asingle-game record crowd of1,611 at the USF softball stadium.
The 3-1 loss to theNo. 4 Gators was the sixth defeat in a row for the Bulls, but left coach Ken Eriksen more relieved than hes been in a couple weeks.
It was the best game weve played enthusiastic-wise, defensive-wise (and) offensive-wise so far this season, he said. We need to start playing every game like its in front of a sold out crowd.
USF junior pitcher Sara Nevins pitched like the Nevins of lastseason.
The junior had allowed only one hit until the sixth inning, when Gator freshman standout Kelsey Stewart hit a double down the third base line to spark the Gator offense. Freshman Kirsti Merritt hit a single to score Stewart.
Sophomore slugger Lauren Haeger then blasted a home run to centerfield to make it 3-1 in favor of the Gators.
The lone run the Bulls scored was off the bat of senior thirdbaseman Kenshyra Jackson, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning.
The Bulls missed severalopportunities to score.
Freshman Morgan Litchfield was stranded on base after hitting a double off the right field wall in the second inning, just a few feet short of a home run.
Junior Stephanie Medina hit a hard line drive to Gator left fielder Briana Little, but Little made a great catch to save a run as the Bulls had two runners on base.
Freshman Monica Santospinch-hit in the sixth inning, and the 4-foot 10 second baseman nearly came up big for the Bulls on a line drive to second base.
Mo (Monica) hit a ball that wouldve scored two runs if it was a couple feet to the left, Eriksen said.
Though it was more of the same hard luck for the Bulls withhard-hit balls going right intodefenders gloves, it was theclosest Eriksen has come toclaiming a moral victory this season.
Im so happy for the kids,Eriksen said. We hit so manybullets tonight. They just didnt fall for us.
The energy and excitement of the Bulls on Wednesday night left Eriksen excited for Thursdays practice, and the coach was more upbeat than he has been for the last couple of weeks.
The Bulls (6-9) have one day off before starting a four-gameweekend series in the UnderArmour Invitational.
Another quality SEC opponent comes to the USF softball stadium on Friday at 2 p.m. TheNo. 19 Kentucky Wildcats are11-3 and have already beaten three Top 25 teams in Cal, Stanford and Washington, while losing toNo. 4 Arizona State andNo. 1 Oklahoma.
The Wildcats have five hitters batting .333 or higher, but the Bulls offense could takeadvantage of Kentuckyspitching. The Wildcats have a 2.73 earned runaverage as a team, while the Bulls have posted a 1.92 ERA coming intoWednesday.
USF will then play Illinois Fighting Illini at 4:15 p.m. TheIllini are 5-9 and are on a four-game losing streak, but also faced a tough schedule that includes five ranked opponents. The Illini have struggled to score runs, much like USF, with only 39 on the year.
On Saturday the Bulls will head to the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater again to face off with University of Illinois-Chicago (0-10) and Toledo (1-4).